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Joanne Coville named university controller

STANFORD -- Joanne Coville, acting controller at Stanford for the past six months, has been named to the position permanently, effective April 15, Chief Financial Officer Peter Van Etten announced.

As controller, Coville will direct a staff of 175 that monitors accounting systems and tracks all university funds, including the $2 billion endowment and the $1.2 billion consolidated budget (which covers the Stanford Hospital and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center).

Each month, the department processes about 20,000 vendor payments, and between 30,000 and 60,000 payroll transactions. It monitors more than 17,000 fund accounts -- destination points for gifts and income-generating activities -- and reviews another 12,000 to 13,000 departmental expenditure accounts.

During the first few days of each academic quarter, the Controller's Office takes to the bank about $1 million an hour (all in checks) from student fees, collecting more than $100 million annually in student fees.

One of Coville's key challenges will be replacing the university's basic financial accounting systems during the next few years as part of the university's effort to improve cost accounting.

Coville, 41, succeeds Frank Riddle, who stepped aside last October to work on special projects for a year, after which he will retire.

Van Etten said that Coville's accomplishments as acting controller include effective management of the staff during a period of "enormous pressure," and success in establishing strong working relationships between her department and the rest of the university.

He also lauded her for "smooth handling of an unusually difficult year-end closing and audit" and "extremely effective presentation of the university" during refinancing of university bonds. Working with officials from the Stanford Management Co. and other offices, Coville recently helped renew the university's AAA bond rating.

Widely known for her sense of humor, Coville has earned the respect of staff at all levels in the department, according to several who work there.

"She takes tasks seriously, but can make light of just about anything," said one, describing her professionalism and humor. "She's very approachable and very supportive of staff."

Now that "acting" has been removed from her title, Coville said she will begin collecting ideas from her staff and others on possible changes in the Controller's Office organization, systems and business practices. Preliminary work has begun on eventual replacement of the transaction accounting system, she said.

Riddle hired Coville in March 1989 as assistant controller for financial analysis information and reporting to oversee accounting policy, internal accounting controls, financial analysis, the annual closing and reporting on financial results of the operating budget, the external audit process, and preparation of internal and external audit reports. Her group also consulted on prospective changes in accounting principles, tax law and other legislation.

"I hired her," Riddle said, "specifically because of her non-Stanford experience in higher education, and skills and training in the public accounting field. We needed a fresh view about the controller function in higher education and at Stanford."

He said that Coville "has made fine use of her skills" in three years at the university.

Before joining Stanford, Coville spent a year as assistant treasurer at Mills College, where she was responsible for budget system redesign, devising a monthly financial management reporting system, and accounting for endowment, life income and annuity funds.

A certified public accountant, Coville spent 13 years with the international accounting firm Peat, Marwick, Mitchell, specializing in audits of higher education clients. She spent two years in the firm's New York City office on assignment to its national practice for higher education and nonprofits. She then managed the University of California systemwide audit for the firm.

Coville has served as Stanford's representative to the accounting principles committee of the National Association of College and University Business Officers. In that role, according to Riddle, she has represented the interests of Stanford and all of higher education in framing issues for the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which is in the process of making significant changes in financial accounting requirements.

At Stanford, she has worked with the School Management Group of administrative deans to coordinate new control requirements with the schools. She also is involved with an information system task force that is studying how systems must be upgraded to facilitate greater institutional decentralization.

Coville earned her bachelor's degree in accounting from Northern Illinois University in 1972. She lives in San Mateo with her husband, Steve Stewart, and sons Dan, 4, and Dave, 2.

Van Etten reorganized finance functions last year, creating a new office of Government Cost and Rate Studies under Reed Brimhall, separate from the Controller's Office, and recently hiring Glen C. Mueller to take over responsibility for internal audit and government audit liaison.



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